- 1840-1946 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
St George's Hospital opened in 1733 at Lanesborough House, Hyde Park Corner in London, in what was then a countryside location. The hospital owes its existence to four men, Henry Hoare, William Wogan, Robert Witham and the Reverend Patrick Cockburn, who collectively founded the Westminster Public Infirmary in Petty France in 1720. The ever increasing needs of the sick forced the Westminster Public Infirmary to seek improved and enlarged premises. A disagreement between members of both the Governors and medical staff on the choice of building led to the founding of both Westminster Hospital in Castle Lane and Saint George's Hospital on Hyde Park Corner.
In 1735, Saint George's Hospital purchased the freehold of Lanesborough House, two adjoining houses and two acres of land. Under the direction of Isaac Ware of the Board of Works, the hospital was enlarged to accommodate 200 patients. By 1825 the hospital was falling into disrepair. A competition was held for the design of a new hospital. It was won by William Wilkins, and the new building was opened at Hyde Park Corner in 1829. Since its foundation, Saint George's Hospital has been training medical students. In 1834, a medical school was established in Kinnerton Street and it was incorporated into the main hospital building in 1868.
Just before the beginning of the Second World War, it was decided that Saint George's needed to be rebuilt on its Hyde Park Corner site. The plan was however abandoned by the commencement of hostilities. During the War, against a background of the population shift from central London, discussions took place which paved the way for Saint George's to be rebuilt and transferred out of the city centre. With the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948, the hospital became part of the Saint George's Hospital Teaching Group of the South West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board. Soon after, the Board of Governors persuaded Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health, that the new hospital should be built on the Grove Fever Hospital and Fountain Hospital sites in Tooting. Patients began to be admitted into the Grove Hospital in 1951 and, by 1953, the Grove Hospital was designated to Saint George's and responsibility for it was transferred from the Wandsworth Hospital Group to the Board of Governors of Saint George's. The Fountain Children's Hospital site adjacent to the Grove Hospital was added to the land available for the Saint George's Hospital redevelopment when the Fountain transferred to Queen Mary's Hospital, Carshalton.
The building of the new Saint George's at Tooting, South West London, began in 1973. Following the reorganisation of the National Health Service in 1974, the Board of Governors was disbanded, and the responsibility for Saint George's Hospital was passed to the Wandsworth and Merton District of the Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth Area Health Authority. South West Thames Regional Health Authority assumed responsibility for the rebuilding of the new Saint George's. The first phase of the new Saint George's Hospital Medical School opened in 1976. The hospital at Hyde Park closed its doors for the final time in 1980 and HM Queen Elizabeth II formally opened the new St George's Hospital and Medical School at Tooting on 6 November 1980. Lanesborough Wing, the first of the ward blocks opened in 1980. In 1993, Saint George's Hospital came under the control of Saint George's Healthcare NHS Trust.
The hospital has been administered by the following:
1733 - 1948: Saint George's Hospital
1948 - 1974: Saint George's Hospital Teaching Group of South West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board
1974 - 1982: Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth Area Health Authority of South West Thames Regional Hospital Board
1982 - 1993: Wandsworth District Health Authority of South West Thames Regional Hospital Board
1993 - : Saint George's Healthcare NHS Trust
Name of creator
St George's, University of London (legal name St George's Hospital Medical School, informally St George's or SGUL), is a medical school located in Tooting in South West London. The Medical School shares a closely related history with St George's Hospital, which opened in 1733 at Lanesborough House, Hyde Park Corner in Central London. St George's was the second institution in England to provide formal training courses for doctors (after the University of Oxford). The Medical School became a constituent college of the University of London soon after the latter's establishment in 1836.
From the very beginning, the physicians and surgeons were permitted by the laws of the Hospital to have a limited number of pupils. A formal register of pupils was maintained from 1752. The earliest recorded course of lectures at the hospital was that delivered by Sir Everard Home some time before 1803. Prior to this, there were no lectures and little regular teaching at all in the Hospital other than what the students could pick up from the physicians and surgeons on their way round the wards. Attempts to remedy this situation were a cause of friction between renowned surgeon John Hunter and his colleagues. In 1793 they drew up a number of suggestions and regulations relating to the instruction and discipline of the pupils of the hospital.
From the beginning of the nineteenth century medical training became more structured, and pupils at St George's were required to learn anatomy at either Hunter's, Lane's, Carpue's or Brookes' schools of anatomy, which were private academies set up for this purpose. Chemistry was taught at the Royal Institution in Albermarle Street in addition to the clinical subjects which were dealt with at St George's Hospital.
Samuel Lane's anatomy school was known as 'The School of Anatomy and Medicine adjoining St George's Hospital'. Due to disagreement between Mr Lane and other medical officers at St George's, it was seen as essential to have a school of anatomy more closely connected to St George's and controlled by staff there. This led to surgeon Benjamin Brodie purchasing a house on Kinnerton Street, which he then leased back to St George's for use as an anatomy theatre, a lecture room and a museum. As a result of this, for 20 years there were now two rival schools associated with St George's. Attempts were made to amalgamate the two schools, but none succeeded. Finally the Kinnerton School moved to buildings attached to the hospital in 1868 and became the sole "Medical School of St George's Hospital". Lane's school closed down in 1863.
Although pupils were trained at the Hospital from its foundation, the medical school was not formally established until 1834 when it opened at the premises on Kinnerton Street. The formal opening ceremony for the school was held in 1835 in the Anatomy Theatre on the premises, and saw the dissection of an ancient Egyptian mummy.
In 1868 the medical school at Kinnerton Street was moved to the buildings at the south-west corner of the hospital site in Hyde Park itself, with the main entrance in Knightsbridge and the back entrance on Grosvenor Crescent Mews. Until 1946 the Medical School, although recognised as a School of London University, was controlled by a Medical School Committee, made up of honorary staff of the Hospital. In 1945 the Medical School Committee was divided into a School Council and an Academic Board.
In 1915, in response to wartime staff shortages, St George's admitted its first four female medical students. Just before the outbreak of World War Two, it was decided that Saint George's needed to be rebuilt on its Hyde Park Corner site. The plan was however abandoned by the commencement of the war. During the War, against a background of the population shift from central London, discussions took place which paved the way for Saint George's to be rebuilt and transferred out of the city centre. With the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948, the hospital became part of the Saint George's Hospital Teaching Group of the South West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board. Soon after, the Board of Governors persuaded Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health, that the new Hospital should be built on the Grove Fever Hospital and Fountain Hospital sites in Tooting.
The building of the new Saint George's at Tooting, South West London, began in 1973. The first phase of the new Saint George's Hospital Medical School opened in 1976. The Hospital at Hyde Park closed its doors for the final time in 1980 and HM Queen Elizabeth II formally opened the new St George's Hospital and Medical School at Tooting on 6 November 1980.
The Post Mortem Examinations and Case Books were created jointly by St George’s Hospital and the Medical School.
Post mortems were routinely conducted on patients who died at the hospital. The examinations were conducted by the curator and the assistant curator of the museum, who were also responsible for the Pathological Museum; they were appointed annually by the Hospital Board from among the senior pupils of the Medical School on the recommendation of the Medical School Committee. Prescott Hewett was the first curator, appointed c.1840, and he introduced the practice of keeping post mortem books. The curators were further assisted by students appointed as post mortem assistants on rotating one-month terms. Registrars were responsible for filling in the post mortem cases each month, under the supervision of senior doctors.
The post mortems formed an integral part of the teaching of surgery and anatomy for the students of the medical school, and were routinely observed by the students, and some cases contain notes indicating the body was taken to the Medical School for dissection and teaching of anatomy. The Medical School Committee minutes from the 19th century onwards frequently refer to the post mortem records, in particular where omissions or mistakes in the keeping of the records were noticed.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
The post mortem records contain manuscript case notes, with medical notes both pre and post mortem. These include details on patients’ admission to the hospital, treatments and medication administered to patients and the medical history of patients; the medical histories were copied into the volumes from hospital registers, which are no longer extant. The post mortem cases include detailed pathological findings made during the detailed examination of the body after death. From the 1880s onwards the case books contain original anatomical drawings and photographs.
The following information is recorded for each case. The information is transcribed from the case notes and/or the relevant index and, where relevant, additionally standardised using MeSH (Medical Subject Headings)
• Name of the patient. If a name is not entered in the volume, it is noted in the catalogue as ‘[No name stated]’
• Gender of the patient (female / male / unknown)
• Age of the patient. Usually in numbers, following the original, with the following exceptions: 4/12 = 4 months, 4/52 = 4 weeks, 4/365 = 4 days. If no age is entered, it is noted in the catalogue as ‘[No age stated]’
• Occupation of the patient. Where no occupation is entered, it is noted in the catalogue as ‘[No occupation stated]’. Children are often designated according to their father’s or mother’s occupation and women by their husband’s occupation (e.g. ‘F / Horsekeeper’, ‘M. Charwoman’, ‘Hd Grocer’); these have been rendered in the catalogue as ‘[Child of] Horsekeeper’, ‘[Wife of] Grocer’
• Date of admission and date of death
• The names of the doctors treating or examining the patient. ‘Admitted under the care of’ denotes the senior doctor in charge of the case (usually entered at the top of the page and in the index); ‘Post mortem performed by’ denotes the doctor responsible for the post mortem examination (usually signed at the bottom of the page) and ‘Medical examination performed by’ denotes the doctor responsible for the medical examination prior to death (usually signed at the bottom of the page). The earliest records usually contain only one name, and some of the later ones may contain multiple names in each category. An authority record (name access point) with basic biographical details has been created for each doctor mentioned in the records; these can be used to explore all the cases related to a particular individual
• Disease(s) or cause of death of the patient. Transcribed from the medical case and/or the index and standardised, e.g. ‘Disease (transcribed): Phthisis. Fractured base. Disease (standardised): Tuberculosis (lungs). Fracture (skull)’
• Medical and post mortem notes. Brief summary description or transcription of the case notes relating to previous medical history (not a full transcription of the case notes)
• Note on whether the case includes illustrations or photographs; these can also be browsed via genre access points
• Note on whether the death was caused by trauma, accident or suicide
• Subject access points, using standardised terms from MeSH, with disease type (e.g. respiratory tract diseases, cardiovascular diseases) and anatomy type (e.g. cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system), which can be used for browsing all relevant cases
Note on transcriptions and abbreviations
Names have been silently expanded, e.g. Jas = James, Wm = William
Some common abbreviations and acronyms
AMCH = Atkinson Morley Convalescent Hospital, Wimbledon
BID = Brought in dead
COA = Condition on admission
F = Father
H or Hd = Husband
HP = House physician
HS = House surgeon
IP = In-patient
L = Left
M = Mother
MR or Med reg or Med r = Medical register or Medical registrar
MS = Museum specimen
OP = Out-patient
OPD = Out-patient department
OR = Obstetric register
PMH = Previous medical history
PH = Previous history
Pt or Pat = Patient
PM = Post mortem
R = Right
RF = Rheumatic fever
Ry = Railway
SR or Surg reg = Surgical register or Surgical registrar
TB = Tuberculosis
VD = Venereal disease
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
This is an on-going project, and more descriptions of the material will be regularly added. For more information and updates about the project, see our project page
System of arrangement
The post mortem records are held in bound volumes, usually covering a single year, with deaths recorded from January 1 of each year; the covering dates usually extend to the previous year as some patients were admitted to the hospital before the end of the year. Cases are numbered each year from 1.
The majority of the volumes cover a single year, with some exceptions; these exceptions, as well as any possible anomalies, are indicated in the relevant volume-level descriptions. The first volume (PM/1841-1842) covers dates from Dec 1840 to May 1842, and the following volume (PM/1842 and PM/1843) covers dates from Jun 1842 to Dec 1843; although a single volume, it has been catalogued in two parts to reflect the numbering system within the volume. Volumes PM/1942-1943 and PM/1944-1945 likewise cover two years each. In PM/1887, cases 451-468 from the following year, 1888, have been added at the back of the volume; these cases, though physically in the PM/1887 volume, have been catalogued in PM/1888 to reflect the numbering system within the volume. Similarly, in PM/1898 cases 453-465 from the following year, 1899, have been added at the back of the volume and numbered 406-420; these have been catalogued in PM/1899. In PM/1900, cases 413-422 date from 1901, and have been catalogued in PM/1901.
Each volume contains an index to the cases, usually at the beginning of the volume; these indices have been digitised and are included in the catalogue, but they have not been transcribed. The index does not always tally with the numbering system of the cases. Any anomalies in the index, as well as in the general numbering system (e.g. missing case numbers) have been noted in the volume-level descriptions.
The collection is arranged by the volumes and the reference number reflects the year of the record (PM/1841-1842, PM/1842, PM/1843, PM/1844 etc.). Within these volumes, each case is described on the item level. The cases are numbered following the original numbering in the volumes; if the original numbering is missing a case, the number has nevertheless been included in the system and marked as ‘[Not entered]’. Duplicate numbers have been included and separated by alphabetical characters (e.g. ‘37a’, ‘37b’).
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
The collection as a whole runs from 1841 to 1946. Due to the sensitivity of the material, however, only volumes up to 1920 will be catalogued in the first instance. The records for 1921-1946 will initially be catalogued as skeleton records, with the names and digital images retracted
Conditions governing reproduction
The images are provided under a Creative Commons CC-BY License. Our Copyright Terms and Conditions page contains information about acceptable usage
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Genre access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
Archival descriptions created using the General International Standard Archival Description (ISAD(G))
Medical terminology standardised using MeSH (Medical Subject Headings)
Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion
In 2017, the Wellcome Trust funded a project ‘Opening Up the Body’, to conserve, digitise and catalogue the post mortem volumes held at the Archives and Special Collections, St George’s, University of London. The records were conserved by the Leather Conservation Centre (LCC) and digitised by the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). The collection was catalogued in 2019-2020 by two project archivists, Juulia Ahvensalmi and Natasha Shillingford, and from 2020 by Natasha Shillingford and Alexandra Foulds. The funding bid submission and subsequent project management was undertaken by archivist Carly Manson. From Jun 2020, the project was managed by Juulia Ahvensalmi.